Skype for Business is a robust video communication platform that offers everything—from instant messaging to HD video conferencing. For many years now, it has helped teams communicate instantly from across the world. Get started by setting up a Microsoft 365 account, downloading the app, and adding contacts to your Skype for Business account. Then, set up your phone number and subscribe to a calling plan to begin making audio and video calls.
Despite Skype for Business’ texting and voice calling capabilities, it’s not the most robust voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) platform for small businesses. For example, it lacks a toll-free number and many of the foundational call handling features essential to small business communication. It’s also worth noting Skype for Business Online is being upgraded to Microsoft Teams on July 31, 2021, though Microsoft will offer support for the Skype for Business Server until 2025.
If you don’t want to use Microsoft Teams or are looking for more powerful telephony features, we recommend Grasshopper, which offers unlimited domestic calling and text messaging to any phone number. You can also check out our guide on the best Microsoft Teams alternatives.
Read on to learn more about the steps for using Skype for Business:
1. Set Up a Microsoft 365 Account
Skype for Business no longer requires you to download an app for desktop use, but is not available as a standalone product. You’ll need a Microsoft 365 Business subscription to get access to the platform. If you do not already have an account, you can go to the product website to get started. Once you have an account, you can sign into the service and download the app on your device.
Here are the Microsoft 365 Business subscription options:
- Microsoft 365 Essentials: This entry-level package can be licensed to up to 300 people and comes with web and mobile versions of Skype for Business as well as the other base products in the Microsoft 365 family. It costs $5 per user, per month. Each user can download the app on up to five phones and five tablets at once.
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard: This version comes with the ability to download Skype for Business on your Mac or PC. Each user can download their own version of Skype on up to five tablets, phones, and desktops. It costs $12.50 per user, per month.
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium: This version has all the features of the Business edition but adds a companywide intranet that you can set up and deploy. It also adds the Microsoft Teams software and Outlook Customer Manager. It costs $20 per user, per month for up to 300 users.
Each option includes Skype for Business and classic Microsoft apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Plus, accounts have access to OneDrive and Microsoft Teams.
Once you choose your subscription and sign up, you’re ready to download Skype for Business on your desktop or mobile devices.
2. Download the App on Your Mobile Device (Optional)
Go to the app marketplace on your iOS or Android mobile device. Find the Skype for Business app. Tap the download button, and then sign into the app with your Microsoft 365 credentials when it’s installed. Grant the app permissions to your contacts, camera, and notifications. You are now ready to use Skype while on the go.
3. Add Contacts to Your Skype for Business Account
When you sign in to Skype for Business on a mobile device, you’ll be asked to give permission for Skype to access your phone’s contact list. Once you allow permission, you’ll see all of the names and numbers in your Skype for Business address book. If you’re using the desktop or web version, you’ll have to add each person’s name and phone number manually.
Skype for Business also enables you to create Contact Groups. This feature lets you create individual groups for specific teammates and clients. Make a new user group by right-clicking your contacts list and clicking “Create New Group” on the list of options. You can name this group whatever you want.
4. Set Up Phone Numbers in Your Skype for Business Account
Skype for Business allows you to make phone calls to any phone number, even if that person doesn’t have a Skype account. Fortunately, setting up phone numbers for your Skype for Business account is much simpler than setting up a full-featured phone system. You have the option to port an existing number into Skype or get a brand-new one from Microsoft.
You can learn more about this step means by checking out our guide on number porting or expanding the tabs below:
Choose Your Phone Number
If you’d like to port an existing phone number, go to your Skype for Business admin center. Click “New Local Number Port Order.” The setup wizard will walk you through a series of questions, asking you to enter your carrier account number and applicable PINs.
If you’d like a new number, go to the admin center and click “Legacy Portal.” In the left navigation panel, Click “Voice>Phone numbers,” and then click “Add New Number.” You can then browse through countries, regions, and cities to find the perfect number for your business. You can even purchase multiple numbers for all your team members here.
For help on this step, visit our guide on how to choose a business phone number.
Subscribe to a Calling Plan
You can make calls to other Skype for Business users for free, but you’re going to need to purchase a calling plan to call numbers outside of the service.
Skype for Business offers two different calling plans:
- Domestic Calling Plan ($12 per user, per month): This plan enables online users to place and receive domestic calls to any local phone number in the user’s country. It comes with 3,000 shared domestic minutes per month.
- Domestic and International Calling Plan ($24 per user, per month): This plan allows online users to make international calls. It comes with 3,000 shared domestic minutes and 600 shared international minutes. Rates for international calls vary per country.
Skype for Business can be an expensive solution for businesses that make many international calls. If you have an overseas business presence, you may want to look at a standalone business phone system like Grasshopper, which offers unlimited calling to all of the U.S. starting at $26 per month.
5. Start Communicating Using Skype for Business
Although Skype for Business is undergoing a slow deprecation in favor of Microsoft’s flagship communication tool, Microsoft Teams, users can still communicate with other Skype users using the platform’s internal instant messaging. Users can also make external video and audio calls. Learn more about these options by selecting from the drop-down below:
Start a message conversation by finding the contact you’d like to chat with. When you see their contact information, you’ll be given the option to call, video conference, or chat with them—choose the chat button. When you click the button, a chat window will open up. Type in your message and press send—it’s as easy as that.
If you want to start a conversation with multiple people, just add additional names to the chat window’s recipients. This will create a group conversation. You can also send images, videos, voice clips, and links to other users within the chat app.
Audio & Video Calling
Find the contact that you wish to speak with the same way you would start an instant message. Hover over their profile picture and click either the phone button for an audio call or the camera icon for a video call. The person on the other line will then get a notification and can choose to either accept or decline the call.
Once the user accepts the audio or video request, you’ll both be placed into the call. Within the call, you’ll be able to mute yourself, share your screen, and turn your camera on or off. These features are standard in video conferencing apps as well as business phone services.
You can also click the red circle button to record Skype calls and save them to your local machine—this can be helpful if you are discussing an important item and want to reference it later.
What Is the Difference Between Skype & Skype for Business?
Skype for Business and the traditional Skype application have a lot in common, but there are a few nuances that set them apart:
- Skype: A free-to-use video conferencing tool that’s great for small businesses of up to 20 employees. It provides basic calling and video chatting functionality, but it’s unable to make calls to landlines or mobiles.
- Skype for Business: Upgrades your account to allow up to 250 participants in online meetings. It also provides high-level security, allows you to manage employee accounts, and integrates into your other Office apps.
Skype for Business Alternatives
Microsoft has publicly stated several times that Teams will be a large part of their business software strategy going forward, so you can expect integration with other Microsoft products in the future. That said, there are a number of other options you may want to consider depending on your preferred communication strategy. For example:
Best for: Small businesses and solopreneurs who need a simple and affordable VoIP solution.
Best for: Small-to-mid-sized businesses that need robust video and messaging functionality.
Best for: Businesses of all sizes that need a powerful, reliable video conferencing platform.
Starting price: $26 per month for 1 phone number, 3 extensions
Starting price: $12 per user, per month
Starting price: $14.99 per user, per month
You can also check out our 6 Best Video Conferencing Software article to discover more options that would best fit your business needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I use Skype for Business for the first time?
Simply sign up for a Microsoft 365 account and download the Skype for Business app on your mobile device or launch the Skype desktop app from your start menu. Follow the instructions above to start sending instant messages or making calls.
How do I make a video call with Skype for Business?
Hover over a contact and click the video icon button. If the user accepts your request, you’ll both be automatically placed into a video conference room.
Can I use the personal version of Skype for my business?
Yes, you can, but your options are a bit more limited. You’ll have a limited number of users who can join your conference calls, and you won’t be able to make calls to landline or mobile phone numbers.
When will Skype for Business be discontinued?
Skype for Business Online is being discontinued on July 31, 2021, and Microsoft will offer support for Skype for Business Server until 2025.
Skype for Business has been one of the most popular business communication apps in the world. However, it’s going away very soon in favor of Microsoft’s all-in-one communication platform, Microsoft Teams. You’ll be able to enjoy all the things you loved about Skype for Business (and more) over on this modern application.
Need a more specialized phone service? We recommend Grasshopper. It offers features like a free toll-free number, unlimited domestic calling, automated attendant, and voicemail transcription. Give it a try for yourself by signing up for a 14-day free trial.